At a meeting of communication specialists, held in Villa Cavalletti in 1973, Father Pedro Arrupe delivered the following brief remarks. His topic was the international collaboration necessary through mass media. “It is my judgment that we can accomplish much more for the service of souls,” Arrupe notes, “if we learn how to use correctly these modern instruments of the apostolate; if we consider those mass media and all who toil in them as part of our present day apostolate; if, finally, we offer them our cooperation in preparing, aiding and directing them in their efforts in mass media.”
For more sources from Arrupe, please visit The Arrupe Collection.
We are exploring something new. A communications research center with two purposes: basic research into humanizing mass media (theory) and applied research (studies in the impact of mass media on man). Of course, much has already been done in this field. But I feel nothing of this special kind of operation we are looking for, exists in the western world—or (especially) the Church. If so, there is a need for such a center, but this need is very complex. We have to see how to develop the idea and how to implement its many applications. Once the basic decision is made, we must realistically develop concrete ways for this new ministry.
I would like to clarify two basic points in the letter you received before this meeting. First, the stress on local research in one central place, and second, work in mass media throughout the Society and the world. Such an arrangement is necessary to be effective, and I endorse it one hundred per cent. One cannot function without the other. To be effective as a meaningful apostolate today, a mutual fraternal dependence, a cooperation and co-responsibility between center and parts, head and members, is vitally important. Otherwise, I think we would lose that universality which is a tremendous value for the whole Church. Thus we are now experiencing a dialectic tension between local and universal. Today, unfortunately, we can be so parochial as to lose the universal vision. We are too busy with our own particular work, and consider the general—global—vision as utopic. We too often forget that it is precisely our specialty, our Jesuit vocation, to be universal – and a tremendous opportunity this affords us. That is not a utopic or paternalistic vision: that is reality.
As I reminded the Fathers at the Congregation of Procurators 5-10-70, the Society has always adopted the cultural and technical means of the times: using all means for the purpose of gaining the world for Christ. What our founder and first Fathers did, we too ought to do. Today we cannot afford to be so weighed down by old practices as to lose the flexibility and adaptability of our original charism.
It is my judgment that we can accomplish much more for the service of souls if we learn how to use correctly these modern instruments of the apostolate; if we consider those mass media and all who toil in them as part of our present day apostolate; if, finally, we offer them our cooperation in preparing, aiding and directing them in their efforts in mass media.
There is a need to specialize, to have professionally trained people for a specific task, but we have to combine the two—the local needs and the immense importance of the universal center. An analogous principle in our Jesuit work is the Church itself. The local Church and the universal Church. The bishop is working in a region, but the whole Church is there. So, while recognizing that we have to foster the local works we also have to foster a co-ordination on the general level. Twenty years ago we had no means of universal communication. Today, in an instant, we can communicate universally.
The second point is, as I see it, that we should not have something exclusively Jesuit, limited to Jesuit institutions. Jesuits should work in other institutions too, be they in or outside the Church. We are not trying to compete with the big production companies, but we can cooperate with them, and certainly we should not work in isolation, jealously guarding our own little personal project. We should rather pool our ideas, talents and resources and work as a team of Jesuits, thereby multiplying our influence. Mutual collaboration is indispensable in this effort. It is our strength too, for we are united in a common philosophy, theology, Christian humanism, and vocation of service to men. Once this important research center is established, Jesuits can go into other centers to integrate its values.
It is somewhat similar to the university situation today. It is fine for some Jesuits to teach at other universities other than ours. However, it seems to me that such a man has a very limited influence on too few people. He operates as a professor rather than a Jesuit priest. But if a team of Jesuits operate in one of our universities, they will be able to influence many people. So we need our own schools as well as Jesuits in other schools. One does not exclude the other: we need both. We must also collaborate with other religious and lay people who share our Jesuit vision.
I think it was important to comment on these two points, the theory and practice of our communications center and Jesuit teams working in and out of our schools in communications. We cannot give up our institutions lest we miss much of our strength, especially our universality and our own proper Jesuit structure.
Other Apostolates Today: Selected Letters and Addresses—III, ed. Jerome Aixala. St. Louis: The Institute of Jesuit Sources, 1981, “Social Communication: Investigation and Collaboration,” pg. 133–135.